Generic name: ethambutol (eth-AM-bue-tol)
Drug class: Miscellaneous antituberculosis agents
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Sep 16, 2021.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Antitubercular
Uses for ethambutol
Ethambutol is used to treat tuberculosis (TB). It is used with other medicines for TB. Ethambutol may also be used for other problems as determined by your doctor.
To help clear up your tuberculosis (TB) infection completely, you must keep taking ethambutol for the full time of treatment, even if you begin to feel better. This is very important. It is also important that you do not miss any doses.
Ethambutol is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before using ethambutol
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For ethambutol, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to ethambutol or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Ethambutol has been tested in children 13 years of age or older and has not been shown to cause different side effects or problems than it does in adults. Ethambutol may be used for children with TB when other medicines cannot be used. However, ethambutol is usually not used in children up to 6 years of age because it may be hard to tell if they are having side effects affecting their eyes.
Many medicines have not been studied specifically in older people. Therefore, it may not be known whether they work exactly the same way they do in younger adults. Although there is no specific information comparing use of ethambutol in the elderly with its use in other age groups, ethambutol is not expected to cause different side effects or problems in older people than it does in younger adults.
Studies in women suggest that this medication poses minimal risk to the infant when used during breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking ethambutol, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using ethambutol with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Aluminum Distearate
- Aluminum Hydroxide
- Dihydroxyaluminum Aminoacetate
- Dihydroxyaluminum Sodium Carbonate
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of ethambutol. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Gouty arthritis—Ethambutol may cause or worsen attacks of gout
- Kidney disease—Patients with kidney disease may be more likely to have side effects
- Optic neuritis (eye nerve damage)—Ethambutol may cause or worsen eye disease
Proper use of ethambutol
Ethambutol may be taken with food if ethambutol upsets your stomach.
To help clear up your tuberculosis (TB) completely, it is very important that you keep taking ethambutol for the full time of treatment, even if you begin to feel better after a few weeks. You may have to take it every day for as long as 1 to 2 years or more. It is important that you do not miss any doses.
The dose of ethambutol will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of ethambutol. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral dosage form (tablets):
- For the treatment of tuberculosis (TB):
- Adults and children 13 years of age and older—15 to 25 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) (6.8 to 11.4 mg per pound) of body weight once a day. Instead, your doctor may tell you to take 50 mg per kg (22.8 mg per pound) of body weight, up to a total of 2.5 grams, two times a week. Another dose that your doctor may tell you to take is 25 to 30 mg per kg (11.4 to 13.6 mg per pound) of body weight, up to a total of 2.5 grams, three times a week. Ethambutol must be taken with other medicines to treat tuberculosis.
- Infants and children up to 13 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- For the treatment of tuberculosis (TB):
If you miss a dose of ethambutol, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Precautions while using ethambutol
If your symptoms do not improve within 2 to 3 weeks, or if they become worse, check with your doctor.
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits.
Check with your doctor immediately if blurred vision, eye pain, red-green color blindness, or loss of vision occurs during treatment . Your doctor may want you to have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Also, make sure you know how you react to ethambutol before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert or able to see well.
Ethambutol side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- pain and swelling of joints, especially big toe, ankle, or knee
- tense, hot skin over affected joints
- Blurred vision, eye pain, red-green color blindness, or any loss of vision (more common with high doses)
- joint pain
- numbness, tingling, burning pain, or weakness in hands or feet
- skin rash
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- Abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
More about ethambutol
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
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- Drug class: miscellaneous antituberculosis agents
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